Canelo vs. Angulo Undercard: Preview and Prediction for Santa Cruz vs. Mijares

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistMarch 2, 2014

Canelo vs. Angulo Undercard: Preview and Prediction for Santa Cruz vs. Mijares

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    Associated Press

    Saturday night in Las Vegas, undefeated Leo Santa Cruz fights on the Saul Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo pay-per-view against Cristian Mijares. Santa Cruz's WBC super bantamweight title is up for grabs.

    This will be a classic battle of youth versus experience. Santa Cruz is among the hottest young fighters in the sport, and former champion Mijares has been a professional since the last century. 

    The one thing the two share in common is that they are both old-school Mexican warriors. This should be a highly entertaining fight—for however long it lasts.

Tale of the Tape

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images
    Per BoxRec     Leo Santa Cruz     Cristian Mijares
    Record:     26-0-1, 15 KOs     49-7-2, 24 KOs
    Height:     5'7"     5'6"
    Reach:     69"     68"
    Weight:     122 lbs     122 lbs
    Age:     25     32
    Stance:     Orthodox     Southpaw
    Hometown:     Rosemead, California     Gomez Palacio, Durango
    Rounds:     143     422

    Although Santa Cruz makes his home in California now, like Mijares he is a native of Mexico. On paper, they don't appear that far apart in size, but Mijares' best weight class was 115 pounds. 

    Santa Cruz always appeared gigantic fighting at bantamweight and still appears physically imposing at 122 pounds. 

    Although he is just 32, Mijares is an extremely experienced fighter. He's been a professional for nearly 17 years.

Main Storylines

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    Josh Hedges/Getty Images

    At just 25, Leo Santa Cruz is already a two-division world champion. He's an all-action fighter and one of the hottest rising stars in the sport. 

    Golden Boy has been featuring him prominently on its biggest cards in the past couple of years and matching him with opponents designed to make him look good. Cristian Mijares is just such an opponent. 

    Although just 32, Mijares is among the most experienced fighters in boxing. He turned professional in August 1997, when he was not yet 16. 

    In the first decade of this century, he was among the top fighters in the world at super flyweight, beating Jorge Arce and Alex Munoz, among others. But he suffered a three-fight losing streak in 2009, including a brutal Round 9 KO against Vic Darchinyan. 

    Since then, he has fought at bantamweight and super bantamweight and had good success. In 2012, he beat Rafael Marquez by TKO.

Strengths

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Leo Santa Cruz is a relentless attacker with a seemingly bottomless gas tank. He has good offensive movement and throws one multiple-punch flurry after another, varying his assault to the body and head. 

    Santa Cruz is not a knockout artist, but he hits with thudding power and he hits a lot. He is very durable and can absorb the kind of punishment necessary to win wars of attrition. 

    Cristian Mijares is an experienced veteran with solid ring sense. He changes levels well and can work to both the body and head. 

    Mijares throws a good variety of straight punches, uppercuts and hooks. Like Santa Cruz, he has the kind of power that can wear an opponent down.

Weaknesses

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Leo Santa Cruz is not completely without defensive abilities. He can block punches and change levels. But defense is an afterthought for him.

    He's always in position to hit, which means he's always in position to get hit. Putting defense second in boxing is always a chancy strategy.

    Against a veteran southpaw like Mijares, it has its risks. 

    Cristian Mijares has had problems with opponents who can get off first against him. This was very apparent in 2009 when he was shellacked by Vic Darchinyan. 

    That's going to be a problem for him against Santa Cruz, who is a bigger, younger and far fresher opponent.

Leo Santa Cruz Will Win If...

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    Leo Santa Cruz has won 26 of his 27 professional fights and 25 straight since drawing in his second pro bout. He should be able to win this fight against Mijares by doing what he has done in every other fight, coming forward with relentless, swarming pressure. 

    As he comes forward, he does need to keep in mind that Mijares is a southpaw. It is very easy for an aggressive orthodox fighter to find himself in a disastrous position against a southpaw. 

    That's mostly going to mean being aware of Mijares punching over the top of his own lead left. When he throws his lead hook to the body, he needs to lower his level enough to get underneath Mijares' straight left. 

    But I think Santa Cruz will maul Mijares so successfully that he'll leave him with very little space to fire back. Just an ounce of prevention and a pound of his usual aggression should be enough to push Santa Cruz to 27-0-1.

Cristian Mijares Will Win If...

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    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    For Cristian Mijares to have any chance to win here, he's going to need to control the distance and win the positioning battle. I think Leo Santa Cruz will come forward looking to blitz him, so Mijares will need to fade back and make sure his own lead right foot is positioned outside of Santa Cruz's lead left. 

    Santa Cruz may be so intent on attacking that he won't be paying attention to such subtleties. If so, it will present an opportunity for Mijares. It will put him in a good spot to cover up against Santa Cruz's assault and look for the spaces to counterattack. 

    Santa Cruz goes to the body often, and he doesn't always lower his level when he does. This, in particular, is something Mijares should look for. If Mijares can consistently stay in the pocket when Santa Cruz attempts to bang him down low and come over the top with his own straight left, he might be able to make this a competitive fight.

Prediction

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Cristian Mijares is the kind of old warrior who earned his respect a long time ago. He's been a world-class fighter for years. 

    But ultimately I don't think he matches up very well with Leo Santa Cruz. Mijares saw his best days two weight classes and six to eight years ago. Even at 115 pounds, he got steamrolled by Vic Darchinyan. 

    So I don't see much hope for him five years later against Santa Cruz at 122. Mijares' last loss came by split decision in April 2013 to Victor Terrazas. 

    Terrazas was knocked out in three by Santa Cruz last August. 

    Golden Boy selected Mijares as an opponent because he is known to the Mexican fans who will be buying the card to see Saul Alvarez and Alfredo Angulo. He's a tough guy who will make for an exciting fight with Santa Cruz for as long as it lasts. 

    And I expect it to last about six rounds. I'm picking Santa Cruz by Round 6 TKO. I expect this will be the first of multiple high-profile appearances for Santa Cruz in 2014.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see him fighting for a third world title by the end of the year, at featherweight.